Lakers guard Kobe Bryant vents frustration during a game against the Toronto… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers needed to win all four games in Week 24 to stay ahead of the Utah Jazz. They did -- but in the process lost Kobe Bryant for the year with an Achilles' tendon tear.
The week started with good news on the health front.
Metta World Peace made a surprising return, just 12 days after knee surgery. Watching his teammates, especially Bryant, play major minutes gave World Peace incentive to get back on the floor ahead of his four-to-six-week time frame.
Though World Peace was able to make it back for Tuesday's game against the New Orleans Hornets, Steve Nash still wasn't ready to return from hip and hamstring soreness.
The Lakers defeated the Hornets 104-96, moving back into eighth place in the West ahead of the Utah Jazz.
All this season, the Lakers were unable to win on consecutive nights (15 tries). They had one last opportunity if they could win Wednesday in Portland against the Trail Blazers.
Bryant scored 47 points to lead the Lakers to a 113-106 win over Portland. With the victory, the Lakers won their 11th game in their last 20 tries -- a 55% win percentage on par with some of the top teams in the league (on the road).
Oddsmakers seemed confident that the Lakers would make the playoffs.
The season would shift dramatically on Friday as the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors 118-116. Bryant suffered the torn tendon, leaving his teammates in shock.
Twitter was flooded with a widespread show of support for Bryant -- from players, celebrities and others.
Bryant vented his frustration on Facebook as he tried to get ready for a long rehab process. The prognosis for recovery was set at six to nine months. The Lakers' all-star guard had surgery on Saturday. His doctor said he was optimistic that Bryant would recover fully.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak downplayed the notion that the Lakers would use their one-time amnesty on Bryant over the summer. If Bryant is only out six months, amnesty doesn't make a lot of sense.
Bryant started collecting bulletin-board material to help motivate his comeback, notably the front page of The Times. Ironically, he said on "Connected With...Kobe Bryant" on Time Warner Cable SportsNet that he believes he can play another five years at a high level (although he wasn't sure he would want to).
The Lakers had to carry on without Bryant against the San Antonio Spurs, who were visiting on Sunday. And they had to do so without Nash, still struggling to get healthy.
The Lakers needed a new leader to step up. Dwight Howard had a big night but it took a tremendous team effort defensively to defeat the Spurs 91-86.
Prior to Bryant's injury, Howard said he still believed that the Lakers could win a championship this season -- despite their struggles. Of course, the Lakers still need to make the playoffs -- and now without Bryant.
In other news, Pau Gasol said he would like to have some job security with the Lakers, admitting that it's been a challenge this season as he dealt with trade rumors, injuries and a fluctuating role.
Bryant's jersey was listed as the fourth-hottest-selling jersey, based on sales at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York and NBAStore.com.
Bryant said he would have "smacked" Mike Rice if he was treated abusively by the controversial former Rutgers coach.
Over the next month, Jordan Hill may be able to make it back from a hip injury -- if the Lakers are still playing.
The Lakers re-signed guard Andrew Goudelock before the game against the Spurs.
AT&T released outtakes from its "It's not complicated" campaign featuring Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Bill Russell.
Abdul-Jabbar promoted a healthy, active lifestyle with a milelong walk outside of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta during Final Four weekend.
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.